Dobbersky wrote:

For those who have (self defense techniques), do you not see the techniques in the kata you practice? It has been agreed long since by many Senior Yudansha that the Pinan/Heian series of Kata holds everything you need to defend yourself IF you understand and teach the correct techniques within those kata.

While many senior yudansha may agree that Pinan/Heian holds everything you need to defend yourself, they certainly have kept these applications pretty secret.

I examined the Ashihara kata video posted and want to make a few points, before going on to a discussion of Pinan.

First, I like this kata from a fighting perspective. I don't find it perfect and have a critique, but it is good fighting. My issue is that the attacks lack an element of realism. Every one is a single technique. In fights, it is quite common for attackers to use combinations. Following is a list of the attacks that are defended against.

1. Single body strike
2. Single head strike
3. Single body strike
4. Single head strike (with the hand staying extended)
5. Single kick
6. Single kick
7. Single kick
8. Single kick

But I find the defensive techniques sound and useful. It is my understanding that this Ashihara kata, and others are recent inventions. In my view, this kata has a clear focus on empty hand fighting, and, as compared to most Okinawan kata of Chinese origin, is modeled on what I call "modern" empty hand fighting principles. The hands are held high, protecting the head. The body is relatively stationary. The counters are aimed at the head. There are round house kicks. These concepts vary significantly with the Chinese kata taught to Okinawans, where the hands are held low, where there are no roundhouse kicks, and where there are woefully few strikes to the head.

To summarize, this Ashihara kata contrasts significantly and in useful ways to the Pinan and other Chinese kata practiced by Okinawans, handed down 100 to several hundred years ago.

The heritage of the Pinan indicate a more recent arrival in Okinawa, as compared with many kata, at least as described in Bishop's text by Chozo Nakama. He states that a Chinese taught Channan to Itosu, who modified them, at least in part, so they could be taught over five years to Okinawan high school students. They may be quite older. They certainly contain sequences that are shared with other kata such as Kusanku and Passai which are likely quite old.

The Pinan are practiced differently by different systems, and these have been recorded and are in large part available on Youtube.

What has not been recorded and put on youtube are much meaningful bunkai. It's easy for anyone to claim tha these kata have everything you need for self-defense. It's also easy to say that there are systems that teach useful fighting for much of the Pinan sequences.

But I have found that we are expected to take this all on faith. I find the distinct lack of much useful Pinan application on Youtube as a telling sign that these claims may be overstated.

In the Ashihara kata shown, each direction is fully utilized against an attacker. What we find is that the defender does not move forward in the way we find one does in Pinan kata. In Pinan Shodan and Nidan, there are four steps to the front and back.

The challenge of applying these movements to empty hand fighting is that the attacker is in the way. A number of youtube videos show an attacker backing up in stances, striking. Is this in any way a realistic model of fighting?

Perhaps such a formalize and stiff retreat could be modified such that the attacker isn't really stepping back in locked stances, but is quickly backpedaling while striking. But even if this change were made, would anyone consider this a realistic model for how an attacker would respond to a defenders forward movements? Is it realistic to have a defended stepping forward in cat or back stance executing shutos, or in front stance using rising blocks, while stiffly moving forward in repetitive stances?

I like the Ashihara approach to kata where the hands clearly protect the head, and are held high and out in front. In Pinan kata, most movements have one hand on the hip leaving the head woefully unprotected. The first and third attacks in the Ashiraha video show a body attack, which when blocked leaves the head wide open, which the defender fully exploits.

This forum, as well as others often have posters make claims that kata are complete empty hand fighting systems, that the movements can all be used in useful ways.

Yet when asked to demonstrate these concepts, posters typically respond with statements such as:

"Look on Youtube, it's all out there."
"If you go to so-and-so's site, you can buy DVDs that explain it all."
"I can't show you our techniques, my teacher won't let me."
"The techniques practiced in my dojo are secret."

In the Ashihara kata, each direction represents a complete series of movements to be performed against an attack. I have given up hope on finding anyone who will post applications of Okinawan kata that do the same thing. For Pinan Shodan, that would include three shutos and a nukite (spear hand) in one defensive sequence. For Heian Shodan, that would include a downward block follow by three strikes or three upward blocks all done while charging forward in long front stances.

I am a kata enthusiast and I believe there are a variety of good self-defense sequences in Pinan. But it is my opinion that much of what passes for bunkai is just bunk. I would be grateful if anyone would point to youtube videos that show full directional sequences as self-defense applications.

If one looks at Aikido, Judo, and BJJ, there is just so much application out there on youtube. This is also true for all sorts of Chinese arts. PMA arts are amply demonstrated on Youtube.

But when it comes to kata application, it is all a big secret, or you can go to some site where it is available for just 29.99 for a DVD.

Why should anyone take this on faith. I have a suggestion. Those who would like others to believe that all these long kata sequences make sense in fighting would be well served by putting a few examples out there on youtube.

Cayuga Karate